In the current debate about the Affordable Care Act requirement of providing free contraception in health insurance coverage as part of women’s preventative health care services, the Catholic church and other conservative religious and social groups have skewed the argument as a “separation of church and state” issue. Interestingly, many of these same groups often breach that wall of separation with impunity when it otherwise suits their purposes.
More to the point though, they’re arguing the wrong point.
Rev. Robert Lynch, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, issued a strong letter of rebuke that was shared in diocese churches this past Sunday, asserting that by virtue of the Affordable Care Act, “the president and his secretary for Health and Human Services are willingly and willfully precipitating a constitutional crisis by causing this assault on the freedom of religion at the federal level.” Requiring church insurance policies to cover contraception is “an assault on the sacred”, the Bishop claims, adding, “We just wish to be left alone to follow the dictates of our conscience. This is indeed the worst assault on religious freedom by the federal government in a long time. It cannot be allowed to stand.”
When the Catholic church was “left alone to follow the dictates of (its) conscience,” it protected pedophiles and rapists within its own sanctified walls. That’s an assault on the sacred.
I believe the Bishop is talking through his mitre . The real issue here is that the Catholic church has no faith in its flock to follow their own conscience and the dictates of their faith, and so it angles to limit their constitutional freedoms to health and well being instead. I have the freedom to gamble, go into strip clubs, drink to an unhealthy degree, and I’m constitutionally protected in my right to say terrible things about other people, but I don’t do those things because my personal convictions guide me otherwise. Because I value the freedom to make my own choices, I can’t in good conscience deny others those same freedoms, even if they choose to behave like the Westboro Baptist church.
Presumably, the truly faithful within the employ of the Catholic church would have no need to utilize the option of free contraception in their health care coverage. If, on the other hand, others within the church believe as the Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark does, “that taking the pill or using a condom is not an immoral act, and, in certain contexts is the right thing to do,” then the Church needs to look within itself, on its own side of that suddenly hallowed wall of separation of church and state, to examine the true nature and purpose of its prohibitions on contraception.
The wall of separation often appears to be a portable one – more like a Bob’s Barricade of separation, really – trundled about and erected at the convenience of some of those who use religion to their own ends, crying out against presumed incursions into the practice of their faith, and then shoved further out in an effort to impose those beliefs on everyone else through legislation limiting or prohibiting abortion, same sex marriage, and access to health care needs like contraceptives.
But given the number of abused, neglected and abandoned children in America where five children die every day as a result of abuse and 21% of American children live below the
poverty level – it is a travesty and a true assault on the sacredness of life to suggest health care for all, with free access to contraception, is anything less than a medical necessity and a basic human right.